Ukraine beats Bosnia & Herzegovina, into World Cup playoffs
PARIS (AP) — Second-half goals from midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko and forward Artem Dovbyk gave Ukraine a 2-0 win at Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday and sent it to the World Cup playoffs in second place behind runway group winner France.
Ukraine finished on 12 points in Group D, six points behind Les Bleus and one ahead of Finland. Ukraine seeks a first World Cup participation since reaching the quarterfinals in 2006 and a shot at some redemption after losing a narrow playoff to France for 2014.
Finland lost 2-0 on Tuesday at home to 2018 champion France, which clinched the top spot after routing Kazakhstan 8-0 Saturday.
Les Bleus labored in the first half in chilly Helsinki but the attack heated up when Real Madrid star Karim Benzema came on. He scored after combining with Kylian Mbappe, who added a brilliant second goal to continue his prolific form.
Already qualified for Qatar, the French started slowly at Olympic Stadium. Finland’s all-time leading scorer Teemu Pukki had one shot comfortably saved by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the 30th and blazed over another effort as he sought his 34th international goal.
A gritty half was summed up when France right back Leo Dubois pulled up with a right hamstring injury and was replaced by Benjamin Pavard.
In a bid to pry open Finland’s tightly knit team, France coach Didier Deschamps brought on Benzema for the ineffective Moussa Diaby and he went close in the 57th.
Benzema’s swift movement and technical ability was too good as he swapped passes with Mbappe — who had netted four against the Kazakhs — to score with a slightly deflected shot in the 66th.
It was Benzema’s 36th in 94 matches for Les Bleus and ninth in 13 games since being recalled by Deschamps for this summer’s European Championship.
His partnership with Mbappe just keeps improving.
“Given the team we have (the World Cup) is in a corner of our minds,” Benzema said. “We have our objectives and they include winning the World Cup.”
Mbappe scored superbly in the 76th.
Turning a defender on the halfway line, he sprinted down the left and curled the ball in brilliantly from just inside the penalty area into the bottom right corner for his 24th international goal.
The 10 group runners-up will be joined in the playoffs by two teams which won a Nations League group last year. Runners-up with the six best records will play at home first in the semifinals.
FIFA will make the playoffs draw on Nov. 26 in Zurich.
The three winners of the playoffs finals on March 29 will complete the lineup of 13 European teams present in Qatar.
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